The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene Spenserian Stanzas

The Spenserian stanza is a fixed verse form that Edmund Spenser created specifically for The Faerie Queene. A Spenserian stanza is nine lines long with a number of special restrictions. First, the stanza must have a rhyme scheme of "ababbcbcc." Second, the first eight lines of each stanza are in iambic pentameter, so that the rhythm of the syllables follows a pattern of unstressed-stressed five times. For example, in quote 1 from the “Quotes” section, “His Lady sad to see his sore con-straint” has this pattern, with the stressed syllables bolded.

However, the ninth and last line of each stanza is an alexandrine, which is a line of twelve syllables that often has a caesura or audible pause between the sixth and seventh syllables, in iambic hexameter, which has the pattern of unstressed-stressed six rather than five times. For example, in quote 4 from the “Quotes” section, we have “For virtue is the band, that bindeth harts most sure.” Thus, there are six iambs of unstressed-stressed, where the stressed syllables are bolded, and the caesura occurs at the comma that divides “for virtue is the band” and “that bindeth harts most sure.”

Within each Book of The Faerie Queene, each stanza is its own mini-narrative, containing a single, complete idea or description, and several stanzas are linked together by their common subject matter in order to form the longer narrative of a canto. Finally, the cantos link together to form Books, and the six Books form the overall story of The Faerie Queene.